A Slow Motion Coup at the Board of Education

I’m not a big fan of schools superintendent Nancy Grasmick (here | here) but the fact that Martin O’Malley wants her gone leads me to believe that keeping her in that position is key to maintaining any vestigial traces of democracy in Maryland.

Apparently Ms. Grasmick and Governor O’Malley have been engaged in mutual eye-poking ever since he presided over the shameful public school system in Baltimore city and took umbrage when Ms. Grasmick endeavored to actually help children condemned to non-functioning schools and got in the way of then Mayor O’Malley’s political ambitions.

As it currently stands the state Board of Education hires the superintendent who can only be removed for “immorality, misconduct in office, insubordination, incompetency or willful neglect of duty.” The Board, unfortunately for it, has a majority of members appointed by former Governor Bob Ehrlich. Ms. Grasmick’s contract could be voted on as early as today. Governor O’Malley wants the board to defer in making that decision until July at which time a majority of the board will be his minions.

Who should come to his rescue but Mike2:

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In a letter sent last night to the school board president, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) argued that reappointing Grasmick before July 1 would be inconsistent with the intent of the law and not be “in the best interests of the State’s K-12 education system and the students and parents that it serves.”

That’s right. It would be inconsistent with the law to reappoint someone who has shown that he cares enough about the children committed to the public education dystopia in Baltimore city to make an implacable political foe. But it would be consistent with the law to allow the guy overseeing the worst school system in the state to appoint a new superintendent.

Say what you will about Governor O’Malley but he is determined to control every lever of power in the state and in the process he has effectively stump-trained the Mikes until they are nothing more substantial than toadies.

In recent months, O’Malley has floated the idea of asking the legislature to give him direct appointing authority of the superintendent. Miller has voiced support for the move, and Busch has said that he is willing to consider it but that he does not think personality conflicts should drive education policy.

More recently, O’Malley and lawmakers have started exploring the possibility of changing the law so that the superintendent serves at the pleasure of the board. That could allow the board to fire Grasmick in July, once O’Malley has a majority of appointees.

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